Lexi is my teacher. It’s taken me time to really learn this important lesson. She is my first horse, so I don’t have years of understanding the intricacies of equine behavior and psychology under my belt. I wish I can say that I’ve learned this lesson through stillness with Lexi, studying her movements and listening to what she had to say. But, I didn’t…
Lexi and I have been in a tough place lately. She’s a fiercely independent Mustang mare with a heart that isn’t given away easily. She isn’t afraid to express her own ideas. Our rides were getting progressively worse to the point of tears and thoughts of selling her. She jigged around, tossed her head, threatened to rear, tried to back up and generally became “disobedient”. I let my frustration take over riding with a heavier hand, nagging legs, reliance on a whip and a rude, driving seat. I thought about getting longer spurs or a different bit. My head moved from partnership into a place of getting her to do what I wanted her to do.
One day, it hit me that I’m causing this period of non-submission. Personally, my life stress points are through the roof right now. I’m sure my strong “attitude” in the saddle triggered her self-preservation. I realized that she was simply telling me that the partnership between us was breaking, and that I needed to wake up and pay attention.
In the following weeks, I’ve tired to take deep breaths while riding and be truly relaxed in the saddle. I’ve learned that she can do the work, but she likes an extremely steady, soft hand. I’m retraining myself to use the muscles in my upper back for strength with elasticity through my arms and gentleness in my hands. I’m using my seat and legs differently. We are spending time together not in the saddle through groundwork, grooming, grazing and walks down the road. I’m learning how to speak Lexi’s language and not a garbled, unrecognized dialect that she doesn’t understand.
I know to many riders all of this seems completely obvious. But for this first time horse owner whose journey has been a bumpy road, the revelations I’ve had lately are huge light bulbs glowing bright when things have been dimmed. We are far from perfect and have much more work to do together. But, I’m grateful to Lexi for not letting me get away with being anything less than her partner. In a language that I could understand, she told me to clean up my act and leave her out of my mess. She gave me her heart. I’m blessed that Lexi is my teacher.